EDINBURG — The UTRGV Department of Athletics revealed the Vaqueros’ men’s basketball 2020-21 regular-season schedule Thursday, which is loaded with a new-look Western Athletic Conference slate and Texas-centric, non-conference schedule highlighted by marquee road games against the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies.

It’s the third time in two seasons the Vaqueros will face a Big 12 opponent after traveling to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Oklahoma Sooners in December 2019. It’s the first time UTRGV will meet an opponent from the Southeastern Conference in regular-season play on the hardwood.

“It’s a tough challenging schedule, which is something we put together every year,” UTRGV men’s basketball head coach Lew Hill said. “We want to challenge our guys by playing some of the best and high mid-majors in the country. We’re excited by the opportunity to go win some of these games and compete against some of the best players in the country.”

The Vaqueros will travel to Austin to open up against the Longhorns on Nov. 25 — the first day of the NCAA Division I regular season — to kick off a non-conference slate that will be played entirely within the Lone Star State. UTRGV will travel to face Texas A&M in College Station on Dec. 6.

The Vaqueros will play their first two of 10 total home games against the UTSA Roadrunners on Nov. 28 and Our Lady of the Lake University on Dec. 4 with no fans at UTRGV Fieldhouse out of an abundance of caution with the athletic department adding the move will “allow the fall semester to conclude before fans enter campus,” in a news release.

When UTRGV Fieldhouse reopens to fans in December, the socially-distanced arena’s game-day capacity will be capped at 255 fans — about 10% of the venue’s maximum capacity — consisting of students, season-ticket holders, relatives of athletes and coaches and event sponsors.

“Our number one priority is the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans, opponents and officials,” UTRGV Vice President and Athletic Director Chasse Conque said. “We have been working hand-in-hand with the university’s coronavirus task force to create these protocols. We feel confident that this plan will allow us to keep everyone safe as we host our first games in over eight months.”

The Vaqueros’ men’s team will also play three games at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg this season, home of the NBA G League’s RGV Vipers. The UTRGV men’s and women’s teams will play a doubleheader against regional rival Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the South Texas Showdown on Dec. 2, and the Vaqueros’ men will also play back-to-back WAC games against Grand Canyon at the arena on Feb. 5-6.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley head men’s basketball coach Lew Hill gives instructions against California Baptist during a Western Athletic Conference game at the UTRGV Fieldhouse on Saturday, Mar. 7, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Bert Ogden Arena will allow 1,200 fans per contest into the socially-distanced venue for each of UTRGV’s basketball games there this season with single-game tickets available for purchase at BertOgdenArena.com.

UTRGV’s complete Lone Star State non-conference schedule also includes games at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as part of the South Texas Showdown (Dec. 10) and Incarnate Word (Dec. 14) and home contests against Sam Houston State (Dec. 21) and Dallas Christian (Jan. 5).

The Vaqueros’ longest road trip of the season will be a 367-mile trek to College Station to face Texas A&M on Dec. 6. UTRGV will bus to all its non-conference road games instead of flying, a scheduling factor previously stressed by Conque and Hill.

UTRGV will play a 14-game conference schedule consisting of seven sets of back-to-back games against the same conference opponent, four at home and three on the road.

“I think the WAC (has) done the best job possible of putting the schedule together,” Hill said. “We’re going to need to figure out what fits our team best with the new schedule and how we can be best prepared for every game. Everybody’s adjusting across the country and we have to do the same thing. We’re just excited about having an opportunity to play.”

The Vaqueros will host Grand Canyon at Bert Ogden Arena and Seattle U (Feb. 19-20) as well as WAC newcomers Dixie State (Jan. 15-16) and Tarleton State (March 5-6) at UTRGV Fieldhouse.

UTRGV will travel to face three-time defending WAC champion New Mexico State (Jan. 22-23), California Baptist (Feb. 12-13) and Utah Valley (Feb. 26-27) in its road conference series.

The 2021 WAC Men’s Basketball Tournament is scheduled for March 11-13 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The WAC basketball conference tournament was interrupted in March 2020 by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UTRGV enters the 2020-21 season having won eight of its last 10 games, including its last two, after finishing second overall in the WAC standings, the program’s best regular-season finish ever in WAC play.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch